Every damn time I go to Cuba I always hear the same damn thing, ‘how bad was the food?’.
I get it, resort food sucks so you all assume that an island of 11 million people must have food that sucks everywhere. That sounds a little ridiculous when you read it like that right? I bet it does. BECAUSE IT IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS.
During my sixth trip to Cuba I took a detour from Santiago de Cuba to visit the beautiful city of Baracoa on the eastern-side of the island. It is considered to be the first city of Cuba and it took about 6hrs to trek here via bus. You can read about that experience here.
The main points I want to share about being in Baracoa are that the city itself and surrounding area are beautiful and that the food is the best I’ve had in Cuba. Something about this city made the food delicious(er). I’d like to talk to you about that, because I think the reasoning has everything to do with the nature around the city.
At the Center of Baracoa
We arrived on the bus from Santiago at around 2pm.
It was a short walk from the station to the AirBnB. Baracoa only has 18,000 people so you would really have a horrible sense of direction to get lost.
The AirBnB was awesome and so were our hosts. The space was really big and the rooftop terrace could see all over Baracoa. We also opted to get breakfast for an extra $5.00 every morning that was provided by the hosts.
We may have spent 10 minutes in the AirBnB before we went to wander around Baracoa.
I think the city is really quaint. There’s something warm and welcoming about a small place and they definitely notice the new people walking around. Shockingly, there was A LOT of tourists there. I imagine the same things I talk about in this blog post is what draws everyone here: food and nature.
You can read about the food adventures further down in the post, the first thing we did after seeing the AirBnB was eating.
Following food there was a nice walk through the center of town. Churches and colourful homes. Make sure when you visit to wear comfortable shoes so you can do the trip up the yellow stairs to hotel El Castillo. The hotel sits high above Baracoa and if you manage to climb up there the view is breathtaking.
As the sun began to set we walked over to the malecon in Baracoa as well. This was my favourite part of the city. Walking along the waterfront that ends in a beach? Ahhhhh. The water levels there get so high that walking along the stone walls could get you splashed, head to toe. It happened to me twice, once walking and once inside a car that had a window open. Serious force behind those waters and it became more clear why when tropical storms hit this region the infrastructure suffered so much.
I should mention here that Baracoa has more than 200 days of rain per year. I didn’t know that before we arrived. I was wondering why all the locals were always walking around with umbrellas in hand, but I learned quickly. You’d never know when the rain would hit or how long it would last. You 100% know it’s coming though. It always came at some point during the three days we were there.
Even in the pictures below, you can see the difference in the colour of the water in Baracoa when it’s overcast vs when the sunshine comes out. Literally like day and night.
While we were walking along the malecon we came near this cross that was erected, along with a very large red statue of a man. Like I said in the beginning, Baracoa is considered the first city in Cuba because that fuckboy Christopher Columbus ‘discovered‘ it before the rest of Cuba. He arrived right here. So, that big red statue I mentioned? It’s of him. No way in hell I was including a picture of that monstrosity on my blog though. Only Christopher I acknowledge on this blog is Chris Webber.
Let’s Talk Nature
I don’t do hiking. I don’t do camping. I like beaches and hate forestry where I can get humid and things can bite me. Also, I am very clumsy so trekking through forests and up and down things isn’t my idea of a fun day.
Sometimes you have to try new things though right?
We booked a day-excursion with Alber the Hiker off AirBnB Experiences. Let me tell you guys about Alber quickly. If there was ever a man born to show people his city and the beautiful things in and around it – it’s him. He is the sweetest man, he knows so much history and fun facts about Baracoa and he was just the best time ever. We were lucky to have him all to ourselves for the day as we went from a cocoa plantation to numerous beaches and to Rio Yumuri.
It would be hard to explain everything we saw on this day because there was just so much to take in. The pictures would show you better, I think.
There was the cocoa plantation where Daisy and her family make the chocolate for the entire damn island basically.
Then there were the incredible views of greenery and palm trees that would make the 200 days of rain per year make sense. How else would this area be this beautiful without rain and sun?
Oh and beaches? Let’s discuss the plethora of beautiful beaches and natural pools that came from EVERYWHERE. It was like a never ending view of water meeting more water and then some sand with it too.
Yes, that is me trying to climb one of the trees at a beach. It was a big fail.
Finally, Rio Yumuri. You arrive and get to take a canoe over to different parts of the area. Once we crossed the rio, we would hike while having some of the trees and types of birds explained and end the time there with a swim in the fresh waters for a bit.
Quick shout out to the gentlemen who climbed the trees to get us fresh coconuts!
This tour is a must-do if you visit Baracoa. Book Alber. You won’t be disappointed in what you see, learn and you truly finish the day feeling like you made a new BFF.
Make sure you eat some of the SUPER bitter chocolate on the tour because it gets you through the rest of the day effortlessly. It tasted awful but the concentration of cocoa mixing with the coffee grown nearby? Whew. You will be wired the whole damn day climbing random things.
All About the Food
For the first foray into the food in Baracoa we went to this restaurant that I read is popular with locals and tourists named Paladar El Guajiro. My boyfriend got the grilled chicken with a side of rice and I got a crab enchilada. The best part? They had a bottle of freshly made hot sauce. If you’ve been to Cuba, you learn quickly that spices are far and few between. Getting ketchup or BBQ sauce is a feat, but fresh hot sauce? This was the jackpot. The food was delicious.
I am typically against eating one cultures food while in a totally different country, because, why? I’m in ____ country, so I will only eat their food. I made a exemption because in my six times to Cuba I had never seen a sign for shawarma before. I loveeee shawarmas. There was a restaurant that had a big sign for it and we had to go in and try it.
Not bad. I got a mixed grill and my boyfriend got spaghetti and the food was good. It tasted like some seasoning had been thought of while this was made. Also, the server brought me tamarind juice. Uh….. yeah that was different. It’s not like it even tasted bad, it just, weird. I didn’t know what to make of the juice but I still drank it because I am polite.
Another popular place in Baracoa to go eat is called La Terraza.
We went there on our final night in Baracoa and again, were not disappointed. Hooooly the food was so good.
The starter was this amazing bean puree and dipping in the bread just *chefs kiss*. I ordered the spaghetti with shrimp as my main course and you know what they brought out with it? GRACE SCOTCH HOT PEPPER SAUCE. Wow, the luxury. I thought we were the luckiest humans getting some home made hot sauce earlier, but the imported goodies? Yes please.
The bean puree, the spaghetti and then the hot pepper sauce made this meal perfection.
There’s no way I could forget to mention during all these meals, large amounts of beer (boyfriend) and Cuba Libres (me) were consumed. You can’t be in Cuba and not enjoy the deliciousness of Havana Club and coke aka Cuba Libres. I would tell you how many were had over three days, but I’m truly unsure.
Please visit Baracoa. It’s the perfect place to get the hell away from people. Truly. Quiet and inconspicuous.
If I may make just a quick suggestion if you choose to go – BRING CASH with you. That’s the one big thing I had a hard time with there. The bank machines were hating on both my debit and credit cards for almost all three days, not to mention that the exchange Cadeca’s opened only when they felt like it. So if you’re coming to Baracoa, arrive with the funds in Cuban pesos.